Meet the founders of foundation.fm, a new women-led station that’s rewriting the rules of radio
foundation.fm is a new Peckham-based grassroots station founded by Becky Richardson (UKOK Management), Ami Bennett (Somethin’ Else, R1 and BBC) and Frankie Wells (Capital Xtra and 1xtra).
Launched this month, the station has two interlaced goals in place from the outset: firstly, they want to position foundation.fm as a platform for the capital’s underground music, art and thought. The second, to promote artist development, career mentoring and, above all, create a space which foregrounds the creative efforts of a diverse group of women and LGBTQ* persons. In a year which saw Radar Radio suspend broadcasting following widespread allegations of assault and tokenisation, foundation.fm feels very much needed.
foundation.fm are eager to push forward in other ways too. Willing to rewrite the rules of traditional radio formats, key flagship slots such as breakfast and drivetime have been remoulded to suit the needs of a younger, creative listenership. This shake-up is supported by the station’s boundary-pushing content, recruiting the likes of including industry collective Bia, podcasters The Receipts, filmmakers Sistren and DJ duo Banjee Boys to head up shows. Off the back of their 5 November launch we queried the founders on the dynamics of the station, the absence of inclusivity in music, and the challenging conversations that still need to be had.
What are the key reasons that prompted you to form foundation.fm?
Becky Richardson: A big part of my reasoning is the female-led angle, we are run by women which is pretty unique within UK radio.
Ami Bennet: To create a safe space in which DJs and presenters could try new things out
Frankie Wells: I just wanted to show that there are a large amount of talented women who are great DJs and tastemakers across the LGBTQI+ community and beyond.
Touching on your background and experiences, what unique perspective do each of you bring to foundation.fm?
BR: I worked as a national radio plugger for Island Records before setting up my own independent plugging company Ghost, so I have a good understanding of the radio landscape and the importance of nurturing the next wave of talent coming through.
AB: My background is in radio, social media and working with talent. I’ll be looking for the ways in which foundation.fm can can help artists take their careers to the next level.
FW: Working in internet radio, grassroots and podcasting I’ll be thinking about the conversations we can facilitate within our station and the boundaries we can break in broadcasting with our DJs at the forefront.
Do you feel there is a lack of inclusivity within music that isn’t being addressed?
FW: Unfortunately I think this an issue around a lot of the music industry, but I think there are amazing DJs and producers making waves for future generations. Producers such as Mina and E.M.M.A., who’s the driving force behind Producer Girls, have created amazing initiatives and always make time and lend their skills to young women to inspire and encourage women in production.
"I just wanted to show that there are a large amount of talented women who are great DJs and tastemakers across the LGBTQI+ community and beyond"
Which elements of underground culture are you each keen to focus on and why?
BR: I want to make sure we had some alternative artists such as King Krule, Tirzah, Rosalia, Blood Orange etc. on the playlist that aren’t necessarily heard across daytime community radio.
FW: I think any artist that isn’t afraid to blur the lines and cross the genre boundaries, I want to see more of that and champion artists that mix it up.
How did you decide on the timings for the ‘breakfast’ and ‘drivetime’ shows? Your morning show runs from 10am – 1pm, which is later than traditional stations’ flagship morning shows, likewise your drivetime show.
BR: We felt like the traditional breakfast and drivetime shows were outdated for our audience. 10am feels like a more reasonable time to expect our listeners to be up and engaged… equally the Happy Hour is designed for that bus journey home from college or those last two hours in the office when you just need good tunes to get you through.
AB: Yes we wanted to ease you out of a bad mood at work or uni or college.
You’ve been very mindful of collectives and individuals who’ve really helped shape underground culture and thought. You’ve approached podcast creators The Receipts, thinker and director Kelechi and creative industry collective Bia to all helm shows on the station. What do you keep in mind when selecting DJs and presenters to help build the foundation.fm community?
AB: We definitely want to keep the spectrum of presenters and DJs broad; it’s really important for us that we reflect different topics of conversation and music that are relevant right now. When we were approaching people for shows, we were mostly looking for great people doing great things – who were maybe looking for a platform, or a secondary platform.
FW: All collectives and DJs on the station are all about championing a movement or a sound and we’re genuinely fans of them, whether we knew of them before or got to know them by scouting out shows. If you’re up for collaborating with us and share our values then we’re all ears.
How’s it been going so far? Are you getting much engagement from your listeners?
BR: The first week has been incredible. We have been overwhelmed with the media and industry response but more importantly the sense of community feels so organic and real.
Are there any topics in particular you’d like presenters to delve into in their chat shows?
AB: I think a lot of it is already happening; there have already been conversations about working as a woman in male dominated industries, about technology and AI, about being black, about starting a business – there is just so much great stuff. I’m really looking forward to hearing how our presenters settle into their on-air homes and where they take their shows in the coming months.
FW: The chat shows are a really exciting slot but I feel as a producer I have to let the DJs take the lead on topics and their experiences as curators and creators; positive or negative. For me it’s one of our most important slots as it will be where our DJs can use their voice to press for the change they need and want to see – it’s all about how we can support that.
Do presenters and DJs have free reign to curate content their content?
AB: Creatively, yes! We haven’t brought anyone onto the station whose values don’t align with that of foundation.fm, so I’d like to think that all the guests who come through will respect that, too. I really wanted our talent to be able to do the things that they were most confident doing, and to be able to experiment creatively. And that’s really exciting! We can develop, and redevelop ideas.
"I really wanted our talent to be able to do the things that they were most confident doing, and to be able to experiment creatively"
Why do you feel it’s particularly important, now in 2018, to give emerging DJs, presenters and artists a platform?
FW: For me I think social media can make so many of us compare ourselves to other people’s lives and careers, for someone else to not only back you but also give you a window of opportunity is significant.
AB: Traditionally in broadcasting, there are only a certain number of hours in the day and days in the week – meaning that new opportunities only arise when someone else moves from a slot that already exists. Away from that, the internet offers unlimited possibilities for people to put out whatever they want, to be listened to whenever. So this is something in between that – we’ve made space, but it’s part of something bigger. It’s a space for people who might not have necessarily been given that opportunity elsewhere, but are still super talented.
Looking into the future, what are the next steps for foundation.fm?
AB: Club nights, panels and workshops… all are definitely going to be happening in the next 12 months. We’ve got lots of plans.
foundation.fm is live from 10am to 10pm every day. Tune in via their official site now.